Here's the question:
I'm new to the Korean teaching scene, but I'm not a new teacher. I taught fourth grade in the US for a few years and did my training in a third grade class. I've been teaching in a public school for couple months now and am shocked by how much these children cry. I don't think I'm tough on them. Is it me or them?
Korean school children have been ruined by the repressive culture and by their over-zealous parents. I'm quite confident that Korea is about to face an entire generation of whiners, quitters and criers.
Always remember, Koreans typically react to embarrassment in three ways: anger, laughter or tears.
The question is related to tears, so let's discuss that. Korean culture is obsessed with academic competition, appearances and maintenance of structural social relationships. We all know that already, but these traits are directly related to the thin-skinned behavior witnessed by children (and adults).
Classroom competition is not always bad. People all over the world strive to excel in the classroom. However, that classroom competition is usually coupled with athletic competition or some sort of extra-curricular competition. When competition is limited to the classroom it tends to be diminished to numbers and bragging rights. The success is not shared with others and it's not celebrated publicly. Furthermore, it's commonly viewed (among students) that students who participate a lot in class are not doing so because they know the answer, but rather because they're showing off their talent. Being outwardly expressive or arrogant is a clear social faux-pas, so even the best students might choose to remain silent.
An English class is different from normal classes, though. Students are
Some students are so used to getting the answer wrong that they don't care anymore, but others are so accustomed to being the best, that something as simple as using the wrong tense can bring them to tears. This is pathetic, but the result of an overemphasis on educational competition and an extension of Korea's crippling obsession with face.
As a teacher you have a few options.
1) You could ignore the criers and hope that they mature past this stage.
2) You can accept this reality and protect students from failing.
3) You can try to be the revolutionary teacher who taught students that failure is a part of life and that it's okay to fail every once and awhile.
None of them are great options. I think accepting it would be the best, but protecting them from failure is what led us to this problem. Parents want to coddle their only-child so much that any discomfort results in a tantrum.
So, I must give the advice that I have given many times before: You know the rules, now play the game.